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23 Jun

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

English Online International Newspapers

Nearly all of these are English-edition daily newspapers. These sites have interesting editorials and essays, and many have links to other good news sources. We try to limit this list to those sites which are regularly updated, reliable, with a high percentage of “up” time.

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World Politics

United States

Trump tweets: ‘I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings’

Tweets contradict earlier suggestion that he had privately recorded talks

The possibility that Trump might have had tapes was raised by Trump himself after he unceremoniously dismissed Comey last month.

The possibility that Trump might have had tapes was raised by Trump himself after he unceremoniously fired Comey last month. Photograph: Olivier Douliery/EPA

Donald Trump admitted on Thursday that he is not in possession of any secret recordings of conversations with James Comey, ending a 41-day saga that began when he issued a menacing tweet about the FBI director he had just fired.

“With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea … whether there are ‘tapes’ or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings,” the president wrote on Twitter.

The announcement came after weeks of speculation in which Trump teased and tantalised the media by refusing to deny the existence of tapes, a prospect that drew inevitable comparisons with Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal.

The possibility that Trump might have them was raised by the president himself after he unceremoniously dismissed Comey last month.

“James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press,” he tweeted on 12 May, implying, but not explicitly declaring, that such recordings might exist.

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Obama attacks Republican health bill as ‘massive transfer of wealth’ to the rich>>

New details of Russia election hacking raise questions about Obama’s response>>

Senate healthcare bill suffers swift blow as four GOP senators voice opposition>>

US Four Republican senators plan to oppose healthcare bill>>

Trump questions impartiality of Russia investigation chief Robert Mueller>>

Woody Johnson nominated as US ambassador to Britain>>

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Attorneys argued the mostly Chaldean Christians, who were picked up during a series of raids in Detroit, would face death or persecution if they returned to Iraq

An eight-year-old girl at a recent rally in Detroit. Her father, a Chaldean Christian, was facing deportation.

An eight-year-old girl at a recent rally in Detroit. Her father, a Chaldean Christian, was facing deportation. Photograph: Tanya Moutzalias/AP

A federal district judge on Thursday temporarily blocked the deportation of more than 100 Iraqi Christians who attorneys said would face death or persecution if returned to their birth country.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) arrested 114 Iraqis, mostly Chaldean Christians, during a series of raids this month in and around Detroit.

Those arrested had been subject to deportation orders and had criminal convictions or pending criminal charges. But attorneys challenged whether it was fair to return this population to Iraq, where Islamic State and other jihadist groups have targeted Chaldeans and other Christian groups.

In a class action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union against the local Ice field office, attorneys said most of the 114 people had lived in the US for decades and “now face imminent removal to Iraq, and the very real probability of persecution, torture or death”.

Judge Mark Goldsmith said in an order on Thursday that those arrested would not be deported for at least two weeks. At the end of that period, he would make a new ruling.

The judge’s order applies to “all Iraqi nationals within the jurisdiction of the Detroit Ice field office with final orders of removal, who have been, or will be, arrested and detained by Ice, including those detained in Michigan and transferred outside of Michigan to other detention locations”.

Most of the people arrested were ordered removed several years ago because of criminal convictions or for overstaying their visas, but the government had released them under orders of supervision that required them to check-in regularly with Ice. They had not been prioritized for deportation under past presidential administrations.

The lawsuit described defendants who had built lives in the US, including Atheer Ali, 40, who entered the US as a child.

Ali, the father of a 12-year-old girl, has been subject of an order of removal since 2004. He had a felony conviction for breaking and entering in 1996 and two marijuana charges from 2009 and 2014, but had never been sentenced to prison.

“Mr Ali fears removal to Iraq, especially because his visible status as a Christian, he will be a target for violence and persecution,” the lawsuit said. “In addition, he shares the same name as his father, a former general in the Iraqi Army, and fears targeting as a member of his father’s family.”

Another petitioner was a Shiite Muslim, Sami Ismael Al-Issawi, who also feared persecution because of his religion. He has been subject to an order of removal since September 2013, though his wife and three children are all US citizens. He was convicted of aggravated assault in 1998, was given a sentence of less than a year, and has not reoffended, according to the lawsuit.

Attorneys are seeking for the removals to be blocked until those arrested have been provided with a process to determine whether they would be in danger when returned to their birth country.

“The decision to detain and deport these Iraqi Christians is unfathomable, unethical, and un-American,” said Mark Arabo, president of the Minority Humanitarian Foundation (MHF), which provides aid to Iraqi minorities. “This temporary stay is a sign of hope for our Iraqi Christian community that has been plagued by injustice at the hands of President Trump”.

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Germany to quash convictions of 50,000 gay men under Nazi-era law

The McGlynn: And it only took over seventy years!

Parliament votes through measure overturning conviction and offering compensation to the estimated 5,000 men still alive

Rainbow flag

The compensation will be a lump sum of €3,000 and €1,500 for every year spent in prison. Photograph: Raul Arboleda/AFP/Getty Images

Germany’s parliament has voted to quash the convictions of 50,000 gay men sentenced for homosexuality under a Nazi-era law that remained in force after the second world war.

After decades of lobbying, victims and activists hailed a triumph in the struggle to clear the names of gay men who lived with a criminal record under article 175 of the penal code.

An estimated 5,000 of those found guilty under the statute are still alive. The measure overwhelmingly passed the Bundestag lower house of parliament, where chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition enjoys a large majority.

It also offers gay men convicted under the law a lump sum of €3,000 (£2,600) as well as an additional €1,500 for each year they spent in prison.

Germany’s article 175 outlawed “sexual acts contrary to nature … be it between people of the male gender or between people and animals”. Sex between women was not explicitly illegal.

Although it dated from 1871, it was rarely enforced until the Nazis came to power, and in 1935 they toughened the law to carry a sentence of 10 years of forced labour.

More than 42,000 men were convicted during the Third Reich and sent to prison or concentration camps.

In 2002, the government introduced a new law that overturned their convictions, but that move did not include those prosecuted after the second world war.

The article was finally dropped from the penal code in East Germany in 1968. In West Germany, it reverted to the pre-Nazi era version in 1969 and was only fully repealed in 1994.

“More than two decades after article 175 was finally wiped from the books, this stain on democratic Germany’s legal history has been removed,” Sebastian Bickerich, of the government’s anti-discrimination office, said in a statement.

Fritz Schmehling, 74, was convicted under the law as a teenager in 1957. He told AFP: “Back then, you lived with one foot in prison.”

Fritz Schmehling

Fritz Schmehling was a teenager when he was convicted in 1957 under the law against gay men. Photograph: Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images

Schmehling said he wished his long-time partner Bernd, who died in 2011, had lived to see justice served.

“He told me, ‘I don’t think I’ll ever see the day these convictions are lifted’. I think he would have been as happy as when the Berlin Wall fell.”

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Although fracturing and surface melting on the Larsen C ice shelf might sound like indicators of climate change, these processes are natural

Helen Amanda Fricker

Aerial footage of the split in the Larsen C ice shelf taken at the start of the year.

Antarctica boasts a great many superlatives: it is the driest continent, the coldest, the remotest, the windiest and the highest on average. Right now, during midwinter, it is also the darkest. As a rift on the continent’s Larsen C ice shelf lengthens and gets closer to the ice front, we are anticipating the detachment of a large tabular iceberg within the next few weeks.

This comes after observations of a waterfall on another ice shelf last summer, reports of extensive surface melting on several ice shelves and, in a report last week, indications of a widespread surface-melting event, which included rainfall as far as 82° south, during the 2015-16 El Niño. Are glaciologists shocked by any of this? Is Antarctica going to melt away? Is Larsen C about to collapse?

The answer to these questions is no. Glaciologists are not alarmed about most of these processes; they are examples of Antarctica simply doing what we know Antarctica has done for thousands of years. But because there is a potential link between the ice sheet and climate change, glaciologists are suddenly faced with a situation where the spotlight is on our science on a seemingly daily basis, and every time a crack grows, or a meltstream forms, it becomes news. The situation is a conundrum: we want people to be aware of Antarctica and concerned about what might happen there in the near future as climate changes. But hyping research results to sound like climate change, when they are just improved understanding of natural behaviour, is misleading.

To understand all of this, we need to think about how Antarctica works. The ice sheet stores 90% of Earth’s freshwater, which would translate to about 60m of sea-level rise around the globe if it all melted. If Larsen C were to disappear, its tributaries could contribute about 1cm to the global sea level.

The ice gets there through snowfall, just like the ski slopes at Chamonix, but, in Antarctica, with annual average temperatures ranging from -5C to -60C, most of the snow that falls over winter remains at the end of each summer. Over millions of years, snowfall has been added, buried and compacted by new snowfall, and an ice sheet has grown.

Once the ice is thick enough, it flows downhill towards the ocean, where it lifts off the ground and floats, forming an ice shelf. In contact with the ocean below and the atmosphere above, this is where the “rubber hits the road”: to maintain its size, the ice sheet must shed the extra ice it gains through snowfall, which it does through two processes that both occur at the ice shelves – calving of icebergs at the front, and melting underneath. Ice shelves also hold back the flow of the grounded ice; if shedding from ice shelves exceeds the gains from snowfall, they will shrink, and then glaciers feeding them will feel less resistance to flow and speed up, and sea level will rise.

There is plenty going on that merits concern: Antarctic ice shelves overall are seeing accelerated thinning, and the ice sheet is losing mass in key sectors of Antarctica. Continuing losses might soon lead to an irreversible decline. However, we do not need to press the panic button for Larsen C. Large calving events such as this are normal processes of a healthy ice sheet, ones that have occurred for decades, centuries, millennia – on cycles that are much longer than a human or satellite lifetime.

The Larsen C rift is like a dozen other rifts observed in Antarctica before. What looks like an enormous loss is just ordinary housekeeping for this part of Antarctica. An iceberg, even one as large as Delaware or a quarter of the size of Wales, is small compared to the whole ice sheet, which averages 1.4 miles thick and is larger in area than Australia. Think of it as one grain in a bag of rice. Similarly, waterfalls off the front of the ice shelf are not a catastrophe. Surface melt is common and occurs every summer as temperatures rise above 0C, as reported in papers published in the 1990s.

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